Why we don’t use retractable leashes and you shouldn’t either.

Retractable leashes also known as Flexi leashes.  Just no!  There are many reasons why we will not use them and we recommend  our clients toss them in the garbage.  Ideally your dog should be on a 4-foot or 6-foot fixed length leash.

Safety of your pets

Dog on retractable leashes have the freedom to roam which can quickly become dangerous.  Have you ever driven down the road and seen a dog  fully extended on its retractable leash, far from its owner?   It almost looks as if the dog is not on a leash at all.  I worry the the dog will step off the curb and get hit by a car.  

Nowadays people are always looking down on their phones so eyes are not always on the dog.  What happens if another dog enters the picture and said dog is not friendly?  Will you be able to make sure your dog doesn’t interact with the stranger dog?  No.  To reel in your dog quickly enough to avoid a potential fight is not likely.  The bottom line is you have little to no control on which direction your dog is going or being able to bring him close when there’s danger.  Should your dog bolt, the retractable leash poses a couple of risks.  One, your dog could hit the end of the leash and severely injure its back and neck.  The bulky handle can easily be pulled out of your hands causing the leash to hit the ground.  As your dog is running, the handle bouncing off the pavement can scare your dog to the point it just keeps on running.  Larger dogs can easily break off the cord and continue to run right into the path of a car.

Your safety

According to an article in Consumer Reports, in 2007 there were 16,574 injuries due to retractable leashes.  The cord is razor sharp and can easily slice into your skin and even worse, cause you to lose a finger.   Burns and cuts are very common usually due to grabbing the cord in an effort to control your dog. Getting wrapped up in the leash is another way to injure yourself.   You could even get in the path of a dog fight and cut yourself trying to break it up!

Bad walking habits

Dogs on retractable are in a constant state of pulling.  Walks on a loose leash are so much more relaxing than having your dog pull and go in all kinds of directions.  As mentioned above, you have no control over your dog and thus your dog is walking you!  That’s no fun! Giving freedom seems like a good idea but your dog will enjoy the walk even if walking close to you.

These are some of the reasons retractable leashes should not be used.  Using a fixed length leash has many more advantages.  Keeping your dog close to you gives you the control to avoid dangerous situations and you can act quickly if there are any problems.  The chances of your dog getting away from you are far less likely.  You don’t have to hold on to a big, bulky handle.  Lastly, it’s very hard to lose a finger when you are using a standard leash versus a retractable.  Both you and your dog will be safe and I assure you both of you will enjoy your walk equally if not more when you use a standard nylon or leather leash.  So take that retractable leash and throw it in the garbage!




  1. This article would be more credible if it shared the link to the consumer reports article. Otherwise, this article is busily laying out problems that may occur with either retractable or non retractable lead. Lastly, it doesn’t matter the lead, all dogs should be walked with a lead attached to a harness, not a collar around the neck.

    • Karen Levy says

      Thank you for your feedback. That’s a great point about linking to the consumer report article. I will make an edit and link over. I wish that all the comments posted underneath said article were still there. There were some horrible stories about injuries sustained by retractable leashes.

      I agree that every dog should use a harness. I still think, however, than even in a harness, if the dog takes off after a squirrel and hits the end of the leash, it could still injure its back. And to Sherrie’s point, training is needed to help with such reactivity so that the dog doesn’t even pull and lunge when seeing a trigger. You are correct in that that problems can occur with any leash. But generally speaking, they are different problems and I think there are less problems. I never recommend putting the loop of a standard leash around one’s wrist! Yikes if you get pulled hard. And, any leash can get wrapped around the handler and cause them to fall. The burns and the gashes are much more severe with a retractable than a standard leash, wouldn’t you agree?

      Do you keep your dog close to you when you walk or give your dog the full extent of the leash?

  2. Rich Renz says

    Those are great points, Karen. And yes, I have been leash burned. Ain’t fun. I leash train my dogs, but have slowly graduated them to a retractable, but use only in the neighborhood where we are very familiar with other pets, blind spots, low/peak traffic hours, etc. The retractable leash (in my humble opinion) is fun for both of us, but does require the owner to take those responsibilities mentioned above, serious. Saying that, I NEVER carry a cell phone on our walks. That is our time, 30-60 minutes at a time depending on weather, temperature, an safe hours, to enjoy the outdoors an mingle with neighbors.
    So yes, I do agree with you on the leash. But using a retractable can be fun an enjoying, but just like children….the owner needs to do his/her responsibilities that come with pet ownership.
    Great topic, an dig the blog!!! Can’t wait to read more!!! Have a good one, my friend ???

    • Karen Levy says

      Thanks for the comment! While you are having good experiences with the retractable leash, I think there are dangers that one can’t always predict. I do see you walking and I’ve never seen you with a cellphone! Congrats! You are definitely not in the norm!

  3. Sherrie Johns says

    Sorry, but I use my retractable leashes all the time. In fact, I walk four dogs at a time on them. My dogs get more exercise with them and they are great for training. I am very responsible with them and my dogs are well trained. Instead of denigrating the leash, why not encourage people to train their dogs and be responsible users? My dogs do. It pull and I always use the ribbon. I do think the cord version should be done away with. It is very dangerous. People who are irresponsible with Flexis are just as irresponsible with every other aspect of dog ownership and never bother to train their dogs or become considerate dog partners from what I have observed.

    • Karen Levy says

      Thank you so much for your input. It’s my opinion that you are in the minority of retractable leash users. And you are entirely correct that owners should focus on training leash walking skills. Unfortunately, many people aren’t training their dogs to walk on leash or other skills.

      The cord is definitely more dangerous than the ribbon. However, the cords are still being used. Regardless, I think that standard, fixed-length leashes are the way to go.

  4. Erin Fenstermaker says

    As a certified dog trainer, I wholeheartedly agree that flexi leads are dangerous to both dogs and humans. And as a pet sitting company owner, you are responsible for the safety of your staff, in addition to the client’s pet. So when safety is the top concern on a walk, the best option is going to be a 4 or 6 foot nylon lead.

    • Karen Levy says

      Thank you for your comment. You make a good point in the fact that we prioritize safety. Not only do we love on our fur clients, but we do all we can to lower the risk of any type of injury. This is why we don’t interact with stranger dogs while on walks. It’s why we always supervise dogs while they are in their back yards. We think of the worst case scenarios and structure our visits to avoid problems.

  5. Sarah Jackson says

    So some advice then. My teenage dog is starting to bolt and not come back because he gets into his own space – so then I need to keep him on a lead as recommended by my trainer. This is fine but he walks better on a flexi-lead having a little more space – doesn’t pull. We only walk in a wooded area and it’s his time to roam a little but also know he cannot run off. If there is another what I call sensible dog walker then I slip it and he can play for a bit. I always use a standard training lead everywhere else and carry it with me just in case. He is being taught to walk to heel at all other times with treats and we do many recalls on and off the lead – so should I not use the flexi-lead at all? I borrowed one and I admit I am finding it useful for this difficult teenage time.

    • Karen Levy says

      Thank you for your comments. Given that you are in an isolated, wooded area, I think it’s fine to be on a Flexi. Not only is it safer but you can use it for greater distance. It’s when you are out walking your dog that a Flexi can be very dangerous. I’m glad to know that you use a fixed length leash at all other times. When training for recall, you might want to consider a long lead. Basically it’s a very long leash.I hope that answers your question.

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